Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sikhs continue to press issue of Kirpan prohibition, appeal to memory of John Paul II

Earlier this month we blogged on the Sikhs' recusal from the interreligious meeting with the Pope, on account that the US Secret Service prohibited the wearing of kirpans (ceremonial daggers). The Sikhs are continuing the protest, appealing to an earlier visitation with Benedict's predecessor, daggers intact. World Sikh News reports:

Tarunjit Singh Butalia of Columbus, one of the nation's leading spokesmen for the Sikh faith, said he was among those invited to the April 17 gathering with Pope Benedict but the U.S. Secret Service has forbidden him to wear a kirpan. Butalia has declined the offer of a meeting saying wearing a kirpaan was a requirement of his faith, not an option.

The Secret Service representatives, while seeming to understand the issue, are sticking to the line that the kirpan is by definition a weapon, and thus cannot be allowed. The World Sikh Council- American Region has said it is often that the Sikhs have been barred from high-level meetings because of kirpans.

There has been precedent of Pope John Paul II meeting Sikh leaders who wore their kirpans, and these were not just ceremonial 6 inches traditional length swords often worn underneath or above the shirt but rather three-foot blades. The photos appeared in the Chicago Tribune and a lot of other papers.

Sikhs often compare wearing of a kirpan to Christians wearing a cross or crucifix and take great pride in the fact that there is not one single incident in the world in which a kirpan was used for torturing somebody or killing somebody.

Clearly a case of religious obligation (Sikhs are duty-bound to wear the Kirpan -- you can't simply "opt-out") butting heads with security concerns. The US Secret Service are obviously of the "not on my watch!" mindset, not wishing to take any chances in this post-9/11 world.

What do our readers think?


  • "No Dagger, No Deal!" Sikhs tell Pope, by by FabbiGabby. Chat & Chai March 9, 2008.

  • Understanding the Kirpan for non-Sikhs, by Sandeep Singh Brar:
    The Kirpan (ceremonial sword) worn by followers of the Sikh religion sometimes raises questions or concerns among people who are unfamiliar with the religion or it's tenants. The Kirpan is an ingrained part of the Sikh religion and is in many ways it’s religious symbolism is similar to the Cross in Christianity. Just as a Cross is worn be devout Christians, baptized Sikhs are required to wear the Kirpan. The Kirpan is no more symbolic a weapons than the Christian Cross is symbolic of a torture instrument.


Bill Cork


It's ultimately Benedict's show. He could give the Secret Service the same ultimatum. But he and the USCCB are strangely silent. They seem content with an "interfaith dialogue" in which only the pope speaks, and other religions must compromise their distinctives to even get at the table.